Mid-winter checkin: Are Astros better now than opening day 2017?

With Christmas now just a few days away, A.J. Hinch must like his early gifts.

Jeff Luhnow has added three pieces recently — Joe Smith, Hector Rondon and the intriguing Anthony Gose — but has given indications the Astros may expect more activity by the end of the year (that’s next week folks!).

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Can’t a team even have a chance to bask in peace?

Has it really been only six weeks since the Astros basked in the glory of its first World Series championship? Can’t the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Cubs, Dodgers and others just give a guy a chance to bask in peace? So much for peace on earth, good will toward men!

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FREE BLOG WEEKEND: Sure is nice up here on the mountain top!

Hello friends!  The Astros played into November for the first time and, as a result, the off-season dates will come a tad quicker for Jeff Luhnow, A.J. Hinch and the players who are wearing a new ring these days.

And, just so you know, opening day is only 140 days away. Hmm, that used to be a number important to Twitter!  Okay, nevermind. Pitchers and catchers start reporting, if you are wondering,  around February 14.

Yes, the Astros will need to squeeze in a lot of activity with awards, free agents, trade discussions, winter meetings, arbitration, discussions about extensions and more. Here’s a quick calendar if you’d like to keep track of some of these things:

  • Nov. 13-16.  GM Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
  • Nov. 14. Managers of the Year announced.
  • Nov. 15. Cy Young Awards announced.
  • Nov. 16. Most Valuable Players announced.
  • Nov. 20. 40-man rosters must be finalized.
  • Dec. 1. Tender/non-tender deadline. All arbitration eligible players on 40-man must be tendered/non-tendered.
  • Dec. 10-14. Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
  • Dec. 14. Rule 5 draft.
  • March 29. Opening Day

And, to continue the discussion about standing pat or going with what you have, here are a few other thoughts.

  • Rotation: Consider if Hinch can get a full year out of Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton. With an occasional cameo from Brad Peacock.
  • Bullpen: Can you get Ken Giles to translate his regular season success to the post-season?
  • Infield: Whoa! Just give me 150 games each from Yuli Gurriel (139), Jose Altuve (153), Carlos Correa (109) and Alex Bregman (155)! These guys hit their groove together in September. How ’bout April? (Numbers in parentheses are # of games played in 2017). AND, those four started only 74 games together during 2017.
  • Outfield: For Reddick, see Giles above. A full season of Marisnick/Gonzalez/fill in the blank with George Springer in center and Reddick in right would be nice.
  • Catcher: More of Brian McCann and find a backup who can spell him for a 2-3 games at a time if necessary.
  • DH: Evan Gattis, unless you want to plug-in one of the young guns or find a suitable replacement on the open market.

Yes, you can make a keen argument to stand pat, or at least reload from within. But do the research. Most winning organizations are the ones who are constantly looking to upgrade.

In 2018, the biggest “upgrade” may come with an extension for Keuchel or Altuve.

And, a couple of other goodies before I let you go.

  • The Astros have had 10 different managers and interim managers since 2000. Take that in for just a moment.
  • A.J. Hinch has the best winning percentage of any Astros’ manager (.558) and next year should climb into fourth place on the all-time wins’ list.
  • If Hinch is named Manager of the Year, he’ll join Hal Lanier (1986) and Larry Dierker (1998).
  • Jose Altuve now has four Silver Slugger awards, one behind Craig Biggio.

And some questions for your weekend:

  • Without looking, do you know which player led the team in these categories: Doubles? Triples? Walks? IP? Ks by a pitcher? Games started (pitcher)?
  • The Astros scored an MLB-leading 896 runs in 2017. It’s not an Astros’ record though. Do you know which team scored 938 runs?
  • Do you remember when these guys were the Astros Top 10 prospects (2011)? Only one of them has made it big.  1. Jordan Lyles, rhp. 2. Delino DeShields Jr., of.  3. Jonathan Villar, ss. 4. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp.  5. Jio Mier, ss. 6. J.D. Martinez, of. 7. Jimmy Paredes, of. 8. Tanner Bushue, rhp. 9. Austin Wates, of. 10. Ariel Ovando, of.
  • A.J. Hinch should have his fourth complete season as Astros’ manager in 2018. Who was the last manager to make it four full years at the helm of the team?
  • It’s possible that Houston could add another Gold Glove winner or two in 2017. Do you know which players (yes, players plural) have won five Gold Glove awards for the Astros?
  • You read about Silver Slugger awards above, but who is the only pitcher to win a Silver Slugger award for Houston?
  • Bonus question: Would you take Carlos Beltran back on a $2 million contract for 2018?